WSSC Water Main Inspection Program Uses AFOs

The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) has implemented an asset management program for its major water transmission mains that includes using acoustic fiber optic (AFO) cable.

The two-year-old program began with the inspection of 6 miles of 96-inch diameter water main running from the Potomac Water Filtration Plant to central Montgomery County. The commission's contractors, Penaka, Pure Technologies and NDT Corporation, used sonic and ultrasonic testing to reveal that 95 percent of the pipe was in good condition, but a few sections needed immediate repair.

WSSC plans to inspect approximately 12 to 18 miles of 48-inch and larger pipe every year. By 2013, all 77 miles of these larger pre-stressed concrete cylinder pipes will be inspected with the goal of re-inspecting the pipes approximately every 6 years. All will be equipped with AFO cable to enable WSSC to detect precursors to failure.

The inspection program recently was named the 2009 Project of the Year for Rehabilitation by Trenchless Technology Magazine.

“This honor is particularly gratifying because it recognizes the hard work of dozens of staff from throughout WSSC, as well as the efforts of our consultant and contractor teammates for a program that has been evolving at WSSC over many years,” said Gary Gumm, WSSC chief engineer. “This is a vital program that allows us to use our resources better. We were able to address a critical piece of our infrastructure at a lower cost, while lessening the impact on area residents.”

Established in 1918, WSSC is the eighth largest water and wastewater utility in the nation, with a network of more than 5,500 miles of fresh water pipeline and nearly 5,400 miles of sewer pipeline. Serving 1.8 million residents in Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties in Maryland, its drinking water has always met or exceeded federal standards, the commission says.

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